Amid all the rumours that Steve Jobs is getting sicker comes what I think is a much more interesting rumour: that Apple will launch a larger-format iPod Touch. Not that I don’t care about Steve-O and his health, of course — I do. But when it comes to Apple products, I’m really interested in the idea of a kind of wireless mini-tablet with the multi-touch interface (something Chris Messina and others have mused about in the past).
While I was doing my best to remain peaceful during the Christmas holidays, I couldn’t help but feel the blood rising after I read Paul Mulshine’s recent piece in the Wall Street Journal about bloggers and the future of journalism, which I found via a Twitter link from my friend Jay Rosen (who was responding to one from Salon founder Scott Rosenberg about the piece). As I read it, I had that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, the kind you get when you realize that an argument you thought had been settled years ago — and not just an argument, but a distorted and ultimately futile and unhelpful viewpoint — is still very much alive.
Mulshine’s piece (which is here) has the troll-ish headline “All I Wanted For Christmas Was A Newspaper,” and segues from a heart-warming anecdote about old-style reporters throwing copy out the window of the campaign bus into a discussion of how the Internet is “killing old-fashioned newspapers.” The passive-aggressive tone of the piece is somewhat understandable when you realize that Mulshine is an opinion columnist for the Newark Star-Ledger, a paper that recently laid off almost 50 per cent of its editorial staff. As a fellow journalist, I can sympathize with the writer’s desire to find a villain somewhere — but as Jay and a number of others have noted quite well since the piece appeared, focusing on the Web and bloggers is not only wrong, but dumb.
I’m taking a bit of a personal break over the holidays, to spend some time with friends and family. In place of my usual insightful commentary, I offer you instead these peaceful images of the countryside around Buckhorn in rural Ontario, about two hours northeast of Toronto.
With David Carr’s argument that newspapers should ignore the Web only a few days old — not to mention Joel Brinkley’s suggestion that anti-trust violations are a viable business model — I thought the market for stupid newspaper-related activity was pretty well saturated. But apparently I was wrong. It seems that GateHouse Media, which owns a number of regional papers in the U.S., is suing the New York Times for linking to its content. Yes, you read that correctly — it is suing to stop the NYT from linking.
David Carr, a writer for the New York Times, is a pretty interesting guy — he kicked a cocaine habit and went on to become a respected journalist at one of the country’s top newspapers, something he just finished writing a book about. That’s the good news. The bad news is that a piece he wrote on Monday perpetuates all kinds of myths about the so-called competition between the Web and the printed newspaper business. For a guy who is supposed to be the Times media columnist, that’s not a great calling card — unless the only media you like to write about is the kind that lines the bird cage or is used to wrap fish and chips.
I came across a post in my news feeds on Friday, and didn’t think much of it at first. It was a post by a guy who writes about education at a blog called Square Peg, and it was about Facebook. I was in a hurry, so I moved on and figured I would go back to it. When I re-read it on the weekend, I thought it was fascinating — not so much because of what it’s about (a marketing group that hijacked some university Facebook groups) but because of how it has evolved over the past few days.
The Recording Industry Association of America, which has spent the past five years suing tens of thousands of individual file-sharers for copyright infringement, has apparently decided to change tactics, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal (hopefully this one is a little more reliable than the recent story about Google’s views on net neutrality). The good news is that they are going to stop suing 13-year-olds and retired war veterans and single mothers for downloading music. The bad news is that their new plan involves cutting sneaky backroom deals with Internet service providers to take a so-called “three strikes” approach: They let the ISP know when they think you’ve been sharing copyrighted material, and the provider agrees to send you an email warning; the second time, you get a letter; do it again and your Internet access gets cut off.
(read the rest of this post at GigaOm)
When I first heard about the YouTube rap video “I Get On The TTC,” which a couple of Toronto rappers recorded recently about the venerable — and much criticized — Toronto Transit Commission, I was really hoping that the TTC wouldn’t blow it by either ignoring or somehow trying to de-legitimize the video. I thought the fact that TTC commissioner Adam Giambrone is (as far as I can tell) about 19 years old might help them get with the “user-generated content” program, and for whatever reason it looks like that is in fact the case. According to a post at Torontoist, the duo got a call from Toronto officials, and wound up being honoured by Mayor David Miller and Giambrone, who played the video and even danced along, and then gave the two a free January Metropass. And some props are also due to Mayor Miller for the shout-out to “Spadina Bus,” the 1980s hit from The Shuffle Demons.
Traditional media outlets like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times have begun to use some of the tools of social media — blogs, Facebook pages, even Twitter accounts. But they seem a lot less eager to adopt some of social media’s core principles, including a commitment to the two-way nature of the medium and all that it represents. This means a lot more than just talking about “the conversation” and how great it is to get links or comments. It’s about taking those comments seriously, responding to them regardless of whether they are positive or negative, and incorporating that approach into the way you do your job. It’s about looking at “journalism,” broadly-speaking, as a process rather than an artifact.
As a number of people have already noted, Microsoft’s release of Seadragon for the iPhone — an image-viewing app based on the deep-zoom technology behind the software giant’s Photosynth project — doesn’t just seem like an admission that the iPhone is better than any other mobile out there: Microsoft product manager Alex Daley comes right out and says as much in an interview with Todd Bishop of the blog Tech Flash:
“The iPhone is the most widely distributed phone with a (graphics processing unit),” Daley explained. “Most phones out today donâ€™t have accelerated graphics in them The iPhone does and so it enabled us to do something that has been previously difficult to do. I couldnâ€™t just pick up a Blackberry or a Nokia off the shelf and build Seadragon for it.”